Wednesday, January 10, 2018

One Soldier's Experience: Before the War

My great grandfather after the Great War
Having received the priceless treasure that is my great grandfather Victor's war album of his time during World War I, I can't help but post some of the pictures for others to enjoy. They are a wealth of information about life and conditions during the war. Some show the graphic realities of the brutality of war, others show the lighter side of life in the camps. Many photos I would like to research more to fully understand what it is I am seeing. Others, I know exactly what they represent. But before I do any of that, I need to post a little about my great grandfather Victor before he went to war.

My great grandfather was born in 1895 most likely on the farm of my 2nd great grandfather but possibly in town. My 2nd great grandfather had an acreage and possibly farmed but I think the records show he was much more involved in running one of several businesses he owned over the course of his life. My great grandfather Victor was the oldest child and would soon have a younger sister. I've never known why in an age when many had huge families, this family stopped with two children but it did. 

Although my grandfather has no memories or knowledge of the explosion mentioned in the above newspaper clipping, I think this event played a pivotal part in my great grandfather's life when the Great War began. In another article posted towards the end of this post, it mentions that my great grandfather tried to enlist for the war four times unsuccessfully. The article doesn't mention why but I wonder if his hand injury had something to do with this. My earliest memories of my great grandfather are after he had his stroke and was moved to a nursing home in Iowa from his retirement home in Florida. Although I remember my visits with him, I have no memories of the conditions of his hand.

My grandfather was 21 years old when America's involvement in the Great War began and it would be six months after the draft before my great grandfather was allowed to enlist.  I don't have exact dates because the clippings in this post are all from the scrapbook of my 2nd great grandmother and dates or locations of where they were published were not included. Unfortunately, most of the records from World War I were destroyed in a fire so I have no specifics of my great grandfather's time in the war except for newspaper clippings, a synopsis of his regiment and his photo album. The newspaper clippings are mostly about daily life in the camps. The synopsis of his regiment covers his whereabouts in a very general sense. The recently discovered photo album helps me fill in many of the blanks. I have asked my still living grandfather, my parents and uncle if my great grandfather Victor ever talked about the war but evidently to them, he did not. So I am left to piece together his story from these sources available to me.

After the war my great grandfather came home, married and had a family. The wealth from his very successful ancestors passed down to him were completely lost in the run-up and during the Great Recession and this branch of the family fell down the economic ladder almost to the bottom. Eventually he was able to recoup enough for a comfortable retirement in Florida in the last years of his life. I never knew him as a soldier until my great uncle died and I inherited some of his things. He was just always my great grandfather, the only one I have memories. I don't know if he did anything heroic in battle other than serve his country which is heroic enough, but I do know now, he had a very interesting military career. Stayed tuned.


Susan said...

What a treasure! I love the details the newspaper articles provide for the folks at home. This is priceless.

Kelly said...

I agree with Susan.... it was a totally different era for newspaper reporting and so much more interesting in its detail than what we get today. Then again, it was pretty much the only way to share information, other than word of mouth.

Ed said...

Susan - The newspapers are great at filling in those details in the middle that I would otherwise have missed.

Kelly - I have wondered if our way of sharing, "social media" will be searchable to our descendants?

sage said...

Interesting history! I wonder what his thoughts were of seeing Halifax after that tragedy.

Ed said...

Sage - The general history of the squad says that the soldiers saw great destruction and sorrow all around and wanted to lend a hand but were forbade to leave the ship. They stayed for a couple day I think and then departed for France.

Leigh said...

Treasure indeed! I so wish I had something like that, but value the few old family photos I do have. They really put a face to the story. Enjoying your sharing!